Toilet Woes.
October 2, 2011 6:14 PM   Subscribe

How can I either simply fix my apartment's toilet or get maintenance to actually permanently fix it?

I've been having issues with the toilet in my apartment for about 6 months. About twice a month, it will clog and overflow, and even if I plunge it and turn the water off and unclog it, it will overflow when I turn the water back on and flush it after it is unclogged. It is overflowing twice a month on average and it is super frustrating!

I don't use a lot of TP or anything, and sometimes this has happened with NO toilet paper in the toilet.

The flush in general is fairly weak, and the water does a thing where it goes down, then comes back up about 3/4 the way, then goes down again weaker almost every time it is flushed.

I've called maintenance about 6 times, and they replaced the parts in the top tank and usually just plunge it, but by the time they get here I have already unclogged and plunged it and they just plunge it again. They snaked it once, which resulted in a stronger flush for about 2 weeks.

I request them to snake it whenever this happens, but they never do. How can I get them to actually fix it? I know how to plunge a toilet!! If there is a simple fix I can do that is free, I'd be happy to try it myself.

I'm on the 2nd floor and there is no drainage issue with the shower or sink in the bathroom.
posted by shortyJBot to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you spoken with your neighbours? Sounds like something further down the line is messed up.

On the off-chance; how full is the bowl after it's stopped refilling? Lift the top of the reservoir and take a peak; is there a large brick or something else that's decreasing the volume of water in the reservoir? If so, take it out - you'll have more water per flush and that might be able to "power through" partial blockages.

You can also change the length of the chain that's limiting the arm with the floating bob at the end of it. Giving it more slack allows the tank to fill further before the bobby-arm-thinger auto-shutoffs the refill, giving you more water for flushes.
posted by porpoise at 6:18 PM on October 2, 2011

I don't use a lot of TP or anything, and sometimes this has happened with NO toilet paper in the toilet.

This basically the water has nowhere to go, which in turn means you need to have the line snaked and scoped right to the curb. You should right a letter to the apartment management, and if that doesn't go anywhere, you should move. A 25' snake isn't expensive - you can rent them for a few bucks at Home Depot, for example - but the problem could easily be a cracked drain. Tree roots sometimes do that to old houses. But this isn't really on you, and if management isn't fixing it, well...

If you're in a basement apartment, you should start putting everything you value on tall shelves.
posted by mhoye at 6:34 PM on October 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm on the 2nd floor and there is no drainage issue with the shower or sink in the bathroom.

Hmmm, that'll teach me to respond before reading the whole thing.

Well, if they won't snake it you can see what it would cost to rent the tools to do that yourself, but odds are good that doing this sort of maintenance yourself (because you're not a plumber, or you wouldn't have posted this) will put liability for screwups on you as well.

Write the letter, remains my advice.
posted by mhoye at 6:36 PM on October 2, 2011

This is almost certainly a partial blockage further down the line. The reason you don't see any issues with the shower or sink is that the volume being drained is much lower (and, um, more liquid). The most likely culprit is tree roots, meaning it will gradually get worse. My experience is that blockages well down the line like this can have an end result of a catastrophic blockage resulting in pressure in the line between your toilet and the blockage, resulting in a literal geyser of shit erupting from the toilet when the pressure gets to be too much.

The apartment management needs to fix this.
posted by dg at 6:46 PM on October 2, 2011

If it is in fact a local blockage, I recommend a toilet auger -- actually, since you're renting, try to convince the landlord to invest in a toilet auger. It's far more efficient than mere plunging, and can save The Landlord lots o' money in plumbing bills.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 7:05 PM on October 2, 2011

Yes, put this in writing.

If you can detail the dates of the past call outs, I'd do so.

State that this a health issue and certainly unsanitary, and as such needs to be rectified in a timely and permanent way. Mention that it could be cause to break your lease, and that you will report them to the local authorities, if it's not corrected. (I'm sure there's someone who cares, but don't know who they'd be in your area,)
posted by BlueHorse at 8:34 PM on October 2, 2011

1- Do you use the blue hockey pucks to make the water blue/sanitary? Remove them, and the problem will disappear. The blue things change the viscosity of the water just enough that it doesn't flush properly.

1.5- Are you a "if it's yellow let it mellow" person? Try not doing that for a while and see what happens.

2- Change toilet paper brands.

3- Check the various holes that the water comes out of when you flush. There should be good flow from the holes around the lip of the bowl, and there should also be good flow from the hole at the drain of the bowl. (This shoots a stream of water through the S of the toilet drain to start the siphon action more quickly.)

4- Could be a clogged vent line. Or just a plumbing installation problem. See if you can get maintenance to tell you how long this toilet has been a problem. Could be a deal where an elbow or a Y was installed backwards.

5- Could also be that building maintenance converted the toilet to low flow by reducing the water level inside the tank. There should be a line molded into the porcelain for where the water level should be. When the tank is done filling, it should stop there. If it is significantly lower than that, there just isn't enough water getting down into the bowl to get a good flush, and "solids" are building up further down the line because they aren't getting flushed out properly.
posted by gjc at 6:08 AM on October 3, 2011

Thanks, guys! I never knew a toilet auger existed. I will put a request in writing for snaking of the toilet, as well as approximate maintenance requests for the toilet.

I don't want to snake it myself due to liability, as stated before. I can imagine getting it stuck 20 feet in and having to explain to the management...

I also don't use blue hockey pucks or anything weird. There are no bricks or blockages in the tank. The toilet is pretty old-school, so I really don't see that management made it low-flow.

I have observed the water to be low in the bowl after a flush, so I tried lengthening the chain. So far, so good, but I just don't trust my loo yet.

Thanks, guys.
posted by shortyJBot at 7:47 PM on October 10, 2011

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